“Food Summer Vibes”. That line hit me really hard a few days ago. It wasn’t for the apparent reasons of warmer weather and longer, sunny days. It was when I saw the first fresh anchovies at the market. I was ecstatic. I went back home with 2 pounds of anchovies and immediately prepared them, a la Mediterranean Style: Marinated fresh cured anchovies, a traditional delicious recipe for your summer table. That being said, I cannot wait for more seasonal ingredients and glorious summer cooking. Let the fun begin!
How can anyone describe food that he or she really (I mean REALLY) likes? Deep breath. I promise I will not type a zillion of exclamations in this post (too). I know that there are a lot of you out there who hate anchovies or have never tasted anchovies. I get it. Why bother? It’s a small looking weird fish with a funny name and even funnier taste. You know that disgusting “fishy” taste that explodes in your mouth and makes you gag. Right!
People of the Mediterranean would definitely disagree. Either it is called “Gavros Marinatos”, one of the best meze plate of the Greek cuisine, or “Boquerones”, the well-known Spanish tapa or “Alici Marinate”, the Italian antipasto, this humble fish captures the spirit of the Mediterranean cuisine! Humble in its simplicity yet delightfully tasteful. Once eaten, its taste stays with you forever and you want to go back for more.
This recipe is going to change your mindset about anchovies. No doubt. Give fresh marinated anchovies a chance and take a small bite of this small but elegant fish. Call me a fool but I find that fish so elegant. Additionally, I really like this recipe because I don’t have to turn on the stove during summer hot days. Salt and vinegar are going to “cook” them and do all the job for you. It’s the “salt-cured” procedure, extremely popular back in those days when lack of electricity the fridge was unknown and useless.
Once the cured anchovies are done, you may keep them in the fridge for up to 10 days and have a real culinary treasure in hand. Because marinated white anchovies are the perfect condiment for salads, pasta, sandwiches, pizza topping, and bruschetta. My grandmother always had a food container with marinated anchovies to serve the guests who may visit her house without notice. Back in time, every house in the Greek countryside was opened for visitors like friends, neighbors, relatives, even strangers in some kind of need. So the anchovies were ready to serve meze any time of the day.
Ask your fishmonger for fresh anchovies or purchase them in fish markets or local markets (even in coastal bait shops) and you may be lucky enough to find some.
I have to admit that the most boring procedure is the preparation. Some find it horrifying with all these gills, backbones and that smell. I don’t mind. All I think is that white, shiny fish fillets marinated in herbs and their insane taste. It’s definitely worth the trouble.
Once cleaned, you salt the anchovies down in layers for a few hours, then rinse and sink them in vinegar. The salt firms them up and the vinegar “cooks” them. Choose the herbs you like and keep them in a food container covered with extra virgin olive oil and in the fridge up to 15 days. Even though the olive oil freezes and the result is a rather unappetizing mass, it is liquefied quickly at room temperature. I won’t advise you to use other oils because it would be almost a sacrilege for a Greek to even consider using other oil than olive oil.
I strongly recommend enjoying these marinated anchovies along with legumes like lentils, chickpeas, beans, and homemade whole wheat bread or pita bread. Legumes and anchovies complement each other beautifully.
Mediterranean Fresh Cured Anchovies
- 1 pound (500g) fresh anchovies
- Kosher salt
- White wine vinegar
- 1 red bell pepper, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 spring onion, chopped
- ½ cup parsley, minced
- Hot red pepper flakes (optional)
- Hold the fish with one hand and pinch right below the head. Snap it in the direction of the belly and pull down to remove the innards. Rinse it. Flat the fish by running your thumb from the headless end of the belly splitting it down to the tail. Remove the spine and the tail and slice into two fillets. OR you may keep the tail if you want a bigger fillet, the fish slit in two. Rinse the fish thoroughly and leave them to drain in a colander.
- In a wide bowl or lidded food container (preferably glass) cover the bottom with salt. Lay down a layer of anchovies with the skin side down. Cover them with salt. Lay down another layer and cover with salt. Repeat with the remaining fillets and cover with salt the last layer as well. Cover the bowl with the lid or with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for 5-10 hours. The time depends on the size of the fillets and the saltiness you prefer. If the fillets are firm enough after 5 hours and you don’t want to be too salty, proceed to the next step.
- Place the fillets in a colander and rinse thoroughly under running cold water. Clean the pot too. Place the fillets in the same cleaned glass bowl and cover the fish with white wine vinegar. Make sure the fillets are fully submerged. Cover the bowl with the lid or with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for 10-12 hours.
- When the fillets are ready drain them. Don’t rinse. The vinegar keeps the fishy taste away. In a lidded glass container, pour some olive oil at the bottom and lay down the fish. Sprinkle garlic, red peppers, spring onion, parsley and cover everything in olive oil otherwise they spoil quickly.
- Wait a few hours before serving. The following days they are tastier.
- Serve them as a meze or appetizer or over crusted bread or jazz up pasta, salads, sandwiches, pizza, crostini.